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Semantic Transliteration: A Good Tradition in Translating Foreign Words into Chinese

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Aiming at the present situation of diversified ways of using loanwords in Chinese, this paper reviews the history of word translation, covering the practices and principles from the Tang Dynasty up to now, especially that in the three climaxes of translation; it analyzes the causes of the diversity of translation techniques from political, societal, cognitive, linguistic, cultural and economic perspectives; and it suggests that semantic transliteration is a good tradition in translating foreign words. Chinese characters represent not only syllables, but also morphemes, so every transliteration arouses a certain association. Chinese is rich of homonyms. Based on the features of the Chinese language, to overcome the shortcomings of pure transliteration and pure free translation, the authors expound the feasibility of semantic transliteration, i.e. a combination of phonetic transcription and semantic manipulation of the original word, and point out that such translation, whose product is a phono-semantic loanword, possesses many advantages, and is worth advocating.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Jiangsu 2: Université de Nanjing

Publication date: 01 January 2003

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  • Revue internationale de la traduction / International Journal of Translation
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